Mr Obama learnt that Mr Heywood was being described as a murder victim before
British officials told William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, about the
Sources in Washington last night said that for the American president to be so
quickly informed of the death of a British citizen was almost unprecedented.
â€œThis was a very high official with extraordinary intelligence,â€ John Tkacik,
who worked for the state department in China for 20 years, said of Wang
Lijun, the head of Chongqing police.
â€œIn all of my experience, I canâ€™t recall its equal.â€
America is increasingly being drawn into the claims of murder and corruption
that have rocked the Chinese establishment.
The hacking of the website Boxun.com, which has been a consistent source of
information on the murder investigation, was blamed on the Chinese security
services by the US-based dissidents who run it.
A senior Washington intelligence official, who analyses Chinese cyber
activities on a daily basis, said: â€œThere is no question that the Boxun
denial-of-service attack was ordered by the authorities in Beijing. It has
their fingerprints all over it.â€
Also based in the US is Bo Guagua, 24, whose lavish lifestyle has been
highlighted in official Chinese reports.
Despite his fatherâ€™s official salary of Â£600 a month, he was educated at prep
school and Harrow. He went to Oxford, from which he was rusticated, and now
studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Claims surfaced in Taiwan yesterday that Chinese diplomats had told the young
Mr Bo to return home immediately, and that he was working on hiding the
familyâ€™s gains from alleged corruption from the Chinese and American
authorities. He is also reported to have hired private security.
Mr Heywood had told a friend he was instrumental in gaining Mr Bo the place at
Harrow, and seems to be at the centre of the scandal rocking the Communist
When Mr Lijun arrived in an agitated state at the US consulate in Chengdu one
night in February, he described a web of corruption and fear presided over
by his boss, the Chongqing party chief Mr Bo.
The consulate was surrounded by local police, who wanted the Americans to hand
Mr Wang over to Mr Boâ€™s enforcers. Eventually he was given to Chinese state
police, leading to questions in the US over why he was not offered asylum.
Analysts believe Mr Heywoodâ€™s alleged killing is only the most public element
of a bitter power struggle which has ended Mr Boâ€™s hopes of joining the
nine-strong politburo which runs China.
Mr Bo rose to national prominence as mayor of Dalian before he was mayor of
Chongqing. His wife, also scion of a Communist dynasty, was equally powerful
and reports in Chinese state media have made claims of extraordinary levels
of corruption and crime.
An unnamed man in Dalian, who was managing the coupleâ€™s overseas assets, died
in suspicious circumstances, while the presumed suicide of a Chongqing
investigator is also now being dealt with as murder.
Leaked party memos claim that Mrs Gu was behind these deaths, in addition to
that of Mr Heywood.
The day before Mr Boâ€™s removal from office for â€œeconomic crimesâ€, one of his
familyâ€™s close allies was arrested. Xu Ming, a Dalian-based billionaire, has
not been seen since. There is speculation that Mr Heywoodâ€™s wife worked for
The scandal is also threatening Zhou Yongkang, the politburo security head and
another ally of Mr Bo. Boxun reported he had been forced â€œto make tearful
self confessionsâ€ to President Hu Jintao. His fate has yet to be decided.
The whereabouts of another European linked to Mrs Gu are also unknown. Patrick
Devillers, an architect, helped her set up a company in Poole, Dorset. He
grew up in Rainans, eastern France, where his father Michel said he had not
seen him for three years. â€œWe speak on the phone, but he doesnâ€™t give me
much news,â€ Mr Devillers said. â€œHeâ€™s a busy man with lots to do.â€
In China, residents at the architectâ€™s last known address, an apartment
overlooking the Birdâ€™s Nest Stadium in Beijing, claimed not to have seen him
The Angdao law firm, where Mr Devillers was based, and which is believed to
have been quietly run by Mrs Gu, would not comment on his whereabouts. Some
workers said they thought he had moved back to France in 2008.
Mr Devillers is perhaps right to be wary: Mr Heywoodâ€™s wife and two children
are coming to terms with him being the apparent victim of a cyanide
There are even claims he was held down and forced to swallow the poison.
Friends in China have found it strange that the Old Harrovian, who
cultivated the image of an Englishman abroad by wearing a linen suit and
driving a Jaguar with a 007 number plate, could be caught up in an
In Dalian, where Mr Heywood settled on moving to China following a degree at
Warwick University, Eddie Casey, 61, an Irish expat who ran a bar called the
Tin Whistle, said: â€œHe was a happy guy. He was very intelligent, always came
in for the pub quiz and his team would win. He wasnâ€™t a party guy. Heâ€™d have
a couple of beers and then heâ€™d say, â€˜Iâ€™m going homeâ€™. The foreign community
in Dalian was very, very small then and so we all knew each other.â€
Nothing in Mr Heywoodâ€™s lifestyle or his business career pointed to fabulous
He reportedly left very little in his will and his wife is said to be
struggling with the mortgage on their three-storey house in Beijing, as well
their childrenâ€™s Â£50,000-a-year fees at the Beijing branch of Dulwich
A former associate reportedly even had to pay for the familyâ€™s plane tickets
to attend Mr Heywoodâ€™s memorial service in London.
â€œI knew he was involved with Bo Xilai,â€ said a friend. â€œThe first time I met
him he claimed heâ€™d been instrumental in getting Boâ€™s son into Harrow, but
that didnâ€™t seem very remarkable. Now, when I read the stories saying he was
a money launderer, thatâ€™s just mind boggling to me.â€
A Shanghai-based businessman also said the story did not chime with the man he
knew. â€œYou meet people who have zeal in their eyes; Neil didnâ€™t,â€ he said.
â€œHe seemed easy-going and gave no indication that he was driven or ambitious.
I got the impression that he was quite lost: a nice guy but a bit of a
The last time the businessman saw Mr Heywood was a month before his death at a
regatta in Beijing. â€œWe all sat on the grass watching the rowing. It was
very pleasant and our kids got on well. We were going to arrange for the
kids to play together again. But it never happened.â€